• Therese

To Make A Village #4

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

How could using a social media environment to communicate with the wider school community and beyond, support connection and collaboration in a special school context

What online activities could be used to generate interaction between whanau, school and beyond?

Would connection and collaboration between the parent community impact student learning?

It was in 1993 that NZ signed the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child. In Article 23 it stated: “You have the right to special education and care if you have a disability, as well as all the rights in this Convention, so that you can live a full life.”

When my friend's parents died she “inherited” her brother who has special needs. At the time she had a young family of her own.

Her parent’s inherited society’s belief that their son did not have the right to a full life.

My friend assumed this belief and perhaps the belief that if he didn’t have the right, neither should she. She believes that she has no control over the situation, that there are no solutions, her brother is her responsibility and hers alone, that there is something wrong with her brother and that she still needs to protect him from the persecution she watched him suffer as a child.

Believing it makes it true for her.

When it comes to her brother, my friend’s traditional beliefs leave her isolated and disempowered still.

We have come a long way.

Fast forward into a new millennium and into the "special school" context, it is an expectation to “enact Te Tiriti O Waitangi principles, inclusive learning communities do the right thing by learners and communities (tika), with integrity (pono) and with care and sincerity (aroha)” (Ministry of Education, N. Z. 2019, May 23)

We still have a way to go...

Community is vital.

The research questions acknowledge the ongoing community need for belonging (manaakitanga) and empowerment (whakamana). "Owning it", so to speak. Honouring Tino Rangatiratanga - The Principle of Self-determination, the questions ask how we can invite participation and contribution from community within the research process and beyond.

Communication is vital.

The research questions were developed through observations of how digital technology influences the communication processes at our school and others. As our school motto suggests, we aspire to deliver an education for the students so they can “be the best they can be”. Understanding, sharing and promoting this relies on robust communication systems to continue growing the school’s shared language of learning. The question asks how the vision of our school, the kaupapa, the Principle of Collective Philosophy can be shared within the research process and beyond.

Connection is vital.

The questions were formed from a desire to find out how the internet can provide an environment where community is supported by tika, pono and aroha. Connection between school and home embodies the Kaupapa Maori principle of whanau. The Principle of Extended Family Structure. The questions ask how the school community can be enhanced and sustained through engaging with social media within the research process and beyond.

When World War One ended, in a small town in Italy, devastated and broken by war, the people came together to rebuild community. They decided that school was central for community, a place where decisions were made collectively in response to the needs of the community, creating their shared philosophy or KAUPAPA. School and family merged, the roles were defined and everyone played their part. School was WHANAU, instead of visitors to school, whanau WAS school. The community “owned it”, TINO RANGATIRATANGA.


I see through a pakeha lens, I acknowledge the limitations of my research, and present the findings in context. As a researcher, my identity within and with the community I am interacting with, must be explored, along with ways to minimise misinterpretation.

Our school has a 30% Maori population. Throughout the process, consultation with Maori in culturally appropriate ways, holding the best interests of all those at heart to move forward respectfully, is what matters. It is important to me that the issues being explored and the investigative process is valid within a Kaupapa Maori framework.

Research methodologies acknowledge the importance of maintaining the integrity of research, adherence to different methodological criteria gives a framework in which to gain and interpret valid data. The Kaupapa Maori approach to research is valid in this context as we work with and alongside people.

The research question helps children and their families to be more visible in our community so that families of children with special abilities don’t inherit false beliefs that leave them isolated and disempowered.

It takes a village they say.


History of Inclusive Education in New Zealand. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2020, from https://www.preceden.com/timelines/134431-history-of-inclusive-education-in-new-zealand

Ministry of Education, N. Z. (2019, May 23). Inclusive Education. Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://www.inclusive.tki.org.nz/

Sheninger, E. C. (2019). Digital leadership: Changing paradigms for changing times. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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